“They’re one of the best teams in the country, if not the best.” This statement came out of Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith’s mouth in a press conference after his team had just taken down the fifth ranked Florida Gators. As the Tigers prepared for their game on Super Tuesday, they knew they had a tough battle ahead of them. Many believed that Florida was going to be too big of an obstacle, especially for a Missouri team that has lost to teams like LSU and Arkansas. Yet the players and coaches knew that something was going to go their way on the chilly Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena.
For many, it was simply impossible for Missouri to beat Florida, and those people had reason to believe that it couldn’t happen. After an obliterating and embarrassing 83-52 loss in Gainesville earlier this season, it was only logical that Missouri wasn’t going to make this a game. However, there was one thing the Tigers had going for them; they were playing at Mizzou Arena. Any team that steps foot on the floor at Mizzou Arena, no matter how good they are, better be ready for a dog fight, and Florida was not.
So what is so special about the Tigers’ home floor? Well, over the last 86 games at the arena, the Tigers are an impressive 82-4. They also currently hold a 16 game winning streak at home, which has overlapped from last season. Current head coach Frank Haith has been a very successful coach at Mizzou posing a 30-1 career record in the building. But what is it that makes this place so special? “Deep down inside, it took everyone to win this game,” said junior point guard Phil Pressey about the win against Florida. The thing is, he meant everybody. Yes, the players and the coaching staff, but the fans were the ones keeping the game alive. The fans who helped Mizzou keep momentum when attempting to cut two different 13 point deficits, one in each half. The fans are the most special part of the Tigers success at home.
So what is there to conclude from this article? Well I can tell you one thing. There is magic at Mizzou arena. Yes, the Tigers have had a poor record on the road, and have played very inconsistently. However, when they come home, there will always be a challenge. So I say to any team that ever tries to step on the court at Mizzou Arena, watch out.
Trevor Weinrich had an article yesterday praising Phil Pressey for all of the abilities he has. In the end, Trevor believed Pressey was better than Ben McLemore, the Kansas standout. Trevor ended the article saying, “Which side do you choose?” I choose the McLemore side, for all of the right reasons.
I believe a player’s importance to a team is much more important than his stats. Is Phil Pressey important to his team? Definitely. His point guard play is unreal, and I believe he is one of the best in the NCAA. When I look at Ben McLemore, though, I see an on-court leader whose talents are able to control the tempo of the game and the tone of the crowd. Whenever McLemore dunks the ball, or drains a three, it is more than likely astonishing and his teammates become motivated to make the next big play. Along with teammate motivation comes the way a crowd reacts. If the game is in Lawrence, the crowd will reach a high number on the decibel scale and the opponents will go cold from the field. If the game is on the road, the crowd will go dead silent and momentum will be in favor of Kansas. With that being said, my point is Ben McLemore is a better leader than Phil Pressey is. Sure Pressey makes awesome passes that make you say, “Wow,” but I think that because McLemore is a redshirt freshman, yet a great leader, he gives his team more of a boost. I may be going deeper than I should, but the momentum of a team is maybe the most important part to winning a basketball game.
Then there are the stats. McLemore puts up almost 17 points per game compared to Phil Pressey’s near 14. Assists wise, Pressey obviously has the edge since he is a point guard, dishing 7.5 a game next McLemore who only has a mere 2.1. Every other stat, McLemore absolutely owns Pressey. Ben grabs 5.2 boards a game and Pressey snatches just 3.4. McLemore has a free throw percentage and a three point percentage that absolutely demolishes Phil Pressey’s. Stats wise, the edge goes to McLemore as well as the momentum factor. Here is a graph comparing McLemore and Pressey.
Ben McLemore’s X-Factor and stats mean so much more to Kansas than Pressey does to Mizzou. Missouri fans would say differently, of course, but on a national level, I would bet a majority would say McLemore. Trevor says hands down Phil Pressey is the better player. For me, I say without question Ben McLemore is better than Phil Pressey. Unfortunately, there is no chance of the two going head-to-head this season. However, we will have to wait and see what the Madness of March may have to give.
As conference play is starting for the Big 12 and SEC, I am asked which player is better Phil Pressey or Ben McLemore. At first thought I would say Pressey is more important because of how efficient he has made Missouri’s offense. Pressey appears to be painting a new mosaic everyday with his beautiful passes and effective layups. Without Pressey, Missouri’s offense looks like a chicken with its head cut off. There is no smooth flow to the offense. Pressey’s second best trait behind his vision and passing ability is his quickness. Everyone knows about these skills but people often forget about him as a threat from beyond the arc.
With Ben McLemore, Bill Self and the Jayhawks are getting a true scorer. He shoots the way Bradly Beal was predicted to shoot at Florida last year. Both players were Saint Louis natives. When coming out of high school Beal was the pick by everyone but Bill Self saw something special in McLemore. After redshirting his freshman year, McLemore has been able to showcase his talents every game. If I had my choice today I (KC’s biggest Gators fan) would take Ben McLemore over Bradley Beal. McLemore shoots the three ball with such poise and consistency. His stroke is as smooth as a babies bottom. McLemore is much better on perimeter defense then most expected.
It is hard to choose between these two stars but because he is younger I would lean towards Ben McLemore. If it were for one season and I could build my team around a player, I would choose Phil Pressey. You let me know who is the best player.
Missouri guard Kim English summed it up the 2011-2012 Missouri basketball season with just one word; fun. That word seems as appropriate as any, as the Missouri Tigers racked up the wins en route to a overall record of 27-4, winning the most games in the regular season in school history. The Tigers went 14-4 in conference play, the 14 wins being the most wins in a conference season since 1994. Yeah, fun sounds pretty appropriate.When Mike Anderson left the program to fulfill his dream of coaching at the University of Arkansas last April, English had another impactful and resounding quote.“We will reconcile the loss of our coach by doing one thing, and one thing only: winning,” English said shortly after Anderson left for Razorback country. And boy did they ever win.
The Tigers started the season by winning their first 15 games, which included a 29 point drubbing of the 23rd ranked Fighting Irish, a 39 point beat down of Pac 12 leading California, and a 38 point trouncing of the Oklahoma Sooners to begin Big 12 play. Tiger fans soon forgot about Anderson and turned their attention to supporting new head coach Frank Haith, hired a mere 6 months ago from the University of Miami. Haith’s time at Missouri began rather tumultuously, as fans were strongly opposed to the hire. Current students at the university even wrote a strongly worded letter to the athletic department expressing their disapproval of the hiring of Haith. Tiger fans feel as if they should have landed Matt Painter, current coach of the Purdue Boilermakers. Haith was inappropriately untactfully forced to defend himself at his introductory press conference.
By season’s end, Haith needed to defense. He let the success of his team speak for itself. Frank Haith arguably was the most important part of the Tigers success this year, as he took the same players Mike Anderson had failed to succeed with and created a system in which players like Michael Dixon, Kim English, and Ricardo Ratliffe thrived in. English returned to his sophomore year form, and Dixon and Ratliffe had their best years ever. Missouri was picked unanimously by Big 12 coaches to finish an underwhelming 5th at the outset of the season. At the time, it made sense. The Tigers had a new coach, a new system, and it was unclear how the players would react to losing 5 of the last 6 games that culminated in an embarrassing 78-63 loss to Cincinnati in the NCAA tournament the previous March.
The Tigers also lost senior forward Lawrence Bowers for the season to a torn ACL before the season began in October. Many thought the season would be another bitter disappointment, and many around the program were curious as to how the players would respond to such difficult circumstances. But the Tigers responded about as well as they could have responded, as the Tigers saw their record blossom to 25-2 in mid-February, which included a thrilling and memorable 74-71 win over the Kansas Jayhawks. Missouri struggled a bit down the stretch, finishing the season splitting the last 4 games and ending up 14-4 in conference play, good for 2nd place. The 2nd place finish was the best finish by the Tigers since the Norm Stewart years and there was excitement surrounding the program for the first time since the early 90’s. The Tigers were back. Missouri was ranked in the top 10 in the nation for almost half the season, an astonishing accomplishment considering Missouri was didn’t see their name debut in the rankings until early December.
Going forward, this Missouri Tigers team is extremely dangerous in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers have the best guard play in the nation, as they lead the NCAA in field goal percentage and are in the top 10 in both turnover margin and assists. Featuring five seniors, one junior, and one sophomore in their seven-man rotation, Missouri has players that are past the “me, me, me” phase of their careers—a trait typically synonymous with mid-major programs that make deep runs into the NCAA Tournament.
As teams prepare for the tournament, they tend to shrink their rotation to the group of players that can offer them the best chance to win. However, Missouri has been accustomed to doing this all season long due to injuries, transfers not being eligible and an overall lack of scholarship players on the roster. Sure, they will encounter difficulty when guarding bigger teams down low, but that also works in their favor on the opposite end. The Tigers were tested by bigger teams such as Baylor and Kansas throughout the conference season, and they held their own winning 3 of 4 games against the two schools.
The deficiencies of smaller players tend to camouflage themselves in the paint better in comparison to that of the bigger players stepping out to the perimeter—making guarding Missouri a very daunting task, especially with all of the motion they run to get their shooters open for easy jump shots. Ultimately, guards win games in March and you’d be hard pressed to find a team in the big dance that will have better guard play than Missouri consistently. As great as the season has been for the Tigers, it could get even better with a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
This Tuesday, the 3rd ranked Missouri Tigers will host the Kansas State Wildcats at Mizzou Arena in each team’s 15th conference game of the season. Missouri enters the game coming off a solid 9-point road win in College Station against the Texas A&M Aggies. The Tigers come in with an overall record of 25-2 and a mark of 12-2 in conference play, which is good for a tie at the top of the conference with the rival Kansas Jayhawks.
Kansas State comes into the contest off an impressive 1-point victory over the Baylor Bears down in Waco this past Saturday. The Wildcats are 18-8 overall, and an even 7-7 in Big 12 play, currently good for 5th place in the conference. Kansas State, one of only two teams to beat Missouri all year, looks to complete the season sweep of the Tigers for the first time since the 2006-2007 season.
Backcourt advantage: Missouri
The Tigers arguably have the best backcourt in the nation, as they lead the country in offensive efficiency and are 2nd in the nation in field goal percentage at 50.3 percent. Look for Phil Pressey, Michael Dixon, and Marcus Denmon to feed off the energy of the crowd at Mizzou Arena and force Kansas State’s young guards into turnovers. On average, Missouri forces an impressive 15 turnovers a game at Mizzou Arena during conference play.
Frontcourt advantage: Kansas State
Kansas State definitely has the advantage here, as they can throw a plethora of bodies at Ricardo Ratliffe and Steve Moore down low. Look for Jamar Samuels, Thomas Gipson, and the seven-footer Jordan Henriquez to flourish on the glass Tuesday night. Ricardo Ratliffe should get his points, but Missouri is going to need quality minutes from Steve Moore. Kansas State dominated Missouri in the rebounding category back on January 7th, out-rebounding the Tigers 37-22 en route to a 75-59 victory in Manhattan. Expect Kansas State to have a similar advantage on the glass, but not by such a wide margin.
While Missouri isn’t very deep at all off the bench, they arguably have the best sixth man in the nation in Lee’s Summit West product Michael Dixon. K-State’s bench hasn’t been all that productive, but at least they have more than 7 players that can come in the game and play effective minutes unlike the Tigers who can only turn to Dixon and Steve Moore off the bench.
Tuesday’s contest is being played in Columbia, where Missouri has yet to lose a game this season. While Kansas State is coming off an energizing victory over Baylor, the Tigers and their fans can almost taste a Big 12 title. Missouri needs this game desperately to keep their Big 12 Championship aspirations alive. And don’t think that 75-59 trouncing of the Tigers in Manhattan back on January 7th isn’t on their minds when they take the court for this one Tuesday night. The revenge factor will be a big part of this game for Missouri.
Missouri hasn’t lost a game at Mizzou Arena this season. Don’t expect that to change Tuesday night.